Excuse me, I think you have a little Santorum on you

It’s amazing to see how far we’ve regressed as a country in terms of religion and politics.
In 1960, a young Catholic Senator from Massachusetts made a run for the presidency.  His Catholic faith was viewed as a detriment to his prospect for election – especially as he was up against a sitting 8 year vice president, Richard Nixon.
“In 1960, anti-Catholicism was not merely an evangelical phenomenon. It was an American phenomenon. Both secularists and Christians, both evangelicals and non-evangelical Protestants, worried about the universal claims of Rome. The prospect of having a Roman Catholic president frightened many. For this reason John F. Kennedy’s candidacy in the 1960 presidential election caused a major controversy.”  According to Don Sweeting, Senior Pastor of Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church, Englewood, Colorado.
The founding of America was based on religious freedom and liberty, coupled with a strong distaste for the papacy and Catholicism.  American disdain for Rome and the Catholic Church almost derailed the formation of the Constitution – where several Founding Fathers, including the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Jay, argued for a requirement for office-holders to renounce foreign authorities “in all matters ecclesiastical as well as civil” – specifically geared toward US Catholics.  This debate ended with the clause in the Constitution that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”  The only reference to religion to be found in the original Constitution!
It was against this backdrop that John Kennedy, sought to reassure Protestant voters that his Catholicism would in no way impact the decisions he would make as President of the United States were he to be elected.  In September of 1960, two months before the general election, Kennedy delivered a speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association.  [Bolded text – my emphasis]
But because I am a Catholic, and no Catholic has ever been elected President, the real issues in this campaign have been obscured — perhaps deliberately, in some quarters less responsible than this. So it is apparently necessary for me to state once again — not what kind of church I believe in, for that should be important only to me — but what kind of America I believe in. 
I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute; where no Catholic prelate would tell the President — should he be Catholic — how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference, and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him, or the people who might elect him. 
I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accept instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials, and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all. 
For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been — and may someday be again — a Jew, or a Quaker, or a Unitarian, or a Baptist. It was Virginia’s harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that led to Jefferson’s statute of religious freedom. Today, I may be the victim, but tomorrow it may be you — until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped apart at a time of great national peril. 
Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end, where all men and all churches are treated as equals, where every man has the same right to attend or not to attend the church of his choice, where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind, and where Catholics, Protestants, and Jews, at both the lay and the pastoral levels, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood. 
That is the kind of America in which I believe. And it represents the kind of Presidency in which I believe, a great office that must be neither humbled by making it the instrument of any religious group nor tarnished by arbitrarily withholding it — its occupancy from the members of any one religious group. I believe in a President whose views on religion are his own private affair, neither imposed upon him by the nation, nor imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.
 
I would not look with favor upon a President working to subvert the first amendment’s guarantees of religious liberty; nor would our system of checks and balances permit him to do so. And neither do I look with favor upon those who would work to subvert Article VI of the Constitution by requiring a religious test, even by indirection. For if they disagree with that safeguard, they should be openly working to repeal it.  Full Text
Now we are here, 52 years later.  Another Catholic is seeking the Presidency of the United States – yet there are several significant differences.  This candidate is running as a Republican.  He seeks to be the second Catholic president of this country – the first since JFK.  However, where JFK went to great lengths to assuage protestant and evangelical fears of his religion, Rick Santorum represents a coalescence of evangelical support.  Rather than run from his religious views, Santorum cloaks himself in his religion.  His religious views are such that in 2005 Time Magazine named him one of the Top 25 most influential evangelists (for the record, Catholics cannot be considered evangelical).

Over the weekend Santorum gave an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulus.  Here is how Rick Santorum responded to Kennedy’s Houston speech:
STEPHANOPOULOS: You have also spoken out about the issue of religion in politics, and early in the campaign, you talked about John F. Kennedy’s famous speech to the Baptist ministers in Houston back in 1960. Here is what you had to say. 
SANTORUM: Earlier in my political career, I had the opportunity to read the speech, and I almost threw up. You should read the speech. 
STEPHANOPOULOS: That speech has been read, as you know, by millions of Americans. Its themes were echoed in part by Mitt Romney in the last campaign. Why did it make you throw up? 
SANTORUM: Because the first line, first substantive line in the speech says, “I believe in America where the separation of church and state is absolute.” I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute. The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country. 
This is the First Amendment. The First Amendment says the free exercise of religion. That means bringing everybody, people of faith and no faith, into the public square. Kennedy for the first time articulated the vision saying, no, faith is not allowed in the public square. I will keep it separate. Go on and read the speech. I will have nothing to do with faith. I won’t consult with people of faith. It was an absolutist doctrine that was abhorrent at the time of 1960. And I went down to Houston, Texas 50 years almost to the day, and gave a speech and talked about how important it is for everybody to feel welcome in the public square. People of faith, people of no faith, and be able to bring their ideas, to bring their passions into the public square and have it out. James Madison— 
STEPHANOPOULOS: You think you wanted to throw up? 
SANTORUM: — the perfect remedy. Well, yes, absolutely, to say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes you throw up. What kind of country do we live that says only people of non-faith can come into the public square and make their case? That makes me throw up and it should make every American who is seen from the president, someone who is now trying to tell people of faith that you will do what the government says, we are going to impose our values on you, not that you can’t come to the public square and argue against it, but now we’re going to turn around and say we’re going to impose our values from the government on people of faith, which of course is the next logical step when people of faith, at least according to John Kennedy, have no role in the public square. Full Text

Actually, when you read the transcript of the conversation, Rick Santorum makes some decent points – especially when he says: “I went down to Houston, Texas 50 years almost to the day, and gave a speech and talked about how important it is for everybody to feel welcome in the public square. People of faith, people of no faith, and be able to bring their ideas, to bring their passions into the public square and have it out.”
So here’s the crux – how welcome are people of no faith in Rick’s public square?  Does he have an atheist or agnostic on his advisory staff?  Is he able to provide accommodation of views that run counter to his religious views? 
I’d venture to say the answer to both questions is a resounding no – but if anyone cares to offer enlightenment I’m all for it.  
In terms of accommodation of other views, Santorum’s record and his policy speeches clearly indicate the “public square” he refers to is the political arena of divided camps – sure, those alternate views can line right up with President Obama’s “phony theology,” but nowhere near his line of Christian soldiers. 
Rick Santorum is the vanguard of the Christian counterattack against secular government.  The problem is that secularism enables freedom of speech and the freedom of practicing religion without the government dictation.  Santorum represents a desire to move this country to a theocratic state that would be no different than Iran.  The Washington Post issued the following statement in today’s paper that captures the folly of Santorum and those that support his vision for this country:
“But Mr. Kennedy wasn’t telling people of faith to stay out of public life. He was restating the constitutional principle that has helped make America a great and resilient country: No faith should be able to dictate government policy, and government shouldn’t dictate theology to any faith. From Martin Luther King Jr. to Jerry Falwell, public figures have drawn upon their religious beliefs while in the “public square,” and no one has ever kept them from doing so. Churches are thriving from coast to coast: Where is the freedom to practice religion under attack?” Link

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This entry was posted in Religious Intolerance, Santorum, Theocracy. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Excuse me, I think you have a little Santorum on you

  1. Steve Benson says:

    Interesting blog Sean. I like that a real man, holds true to his beliefs. Just as you do. You wouldnt sway from them just to get something you wanted. Rick is the same in my view. He holds by his principles, and says how he feelings about this or that. Knowing, that alot of wishy washy Christians, and ALL NON BELEIVERS WONT LIKE IT. I respect that in him. I disagree that he is going to try a Theocratic move in our Govt. He would never have that power. See, protastants make up most of American Christians. And we do not actually like, or agree with most Catholic teaching. But, we like the moral, and Christian things that Rick speaks about and believes in.

  2. Denis says:

    Well Sean, I can tell by your use of a WashPo quote where your biases lay. Those liberal, atheist-loving elites will stop at nothing to smear a God-fearing conservative Christian like Richie. They will even stoop to the truth. Seriously though, I can live with Santorum's viewpoints of separation of church and state. I don't agree with him and fully expect the electorate will sort him out in due order. What is unforgivable from our smug little alter-boy is that he denigrates one of the beast statements of belief in the American system and constitution, and has apparently not even read it.

  3. Anonymous says:

    It seems quite simple to me. Santorum argues against Kennedy’s speech saying: “The idea that THE CHURCH can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country” [emphasis mine]. He then substitutes “persons of faith” in place of “the church” when he argues against it. This fundamentally changes the meaning of what JFK was saying into something ridiculous. This is a clear case of a straw man argument. To be clear: – The Church has absolutely no place in the operation of the state. – People of faith absolutely do have a place in the operation of the state. (That includes different faiths and non-faith persons.)

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